Virtual Foreign Affairs Council: Maas assures Ukraine of support
Virtual Foreign Affairs Council, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net
Alexei Navalny and the recent tensions between Russia and the Czech Republic are among the topics to be discussed at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers. The other issues on the agenda are Myanmar, Ethiopia and the Indo‑Pacific region.
Three issues linked to Russia will be discussed at today’s meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council. Due to the worrying reports about Alexei Navalny’s state of health, Foreign Minister Maas and his colleagues will address his case today. Yesterday, Maas commented: “We have noted with deep concern that Alexei Navalny’s health continues to deteriorate. We strongly urge that Alexei Navalny receive adequate medical treatment and be given access to doctors of his own choosing. He must be granted his right to medical care immediately.” The United States and the heads of the EU have also expressed their concern. It is clear that Russia is responsible for what happens to Navalny while he is in its custody.
The Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister brought up another current issue relating to Russia at today’s meeting: the explosion at an ammunition depot in the Czech Republic seven years ago and the question of who was behind it. At the weekend, the Czech Government, which believes that the Russian intelligence services were involved in the explosion, expelled 18 Russian diplomats. Yesterday evening, Russia responded by expelling 20 Czech diplomats. The findings of the Czech authorities’ investigation to date on the background to the explosion in 2014 are cause for great concern. Germany stands by its Czech partners and friends.
However, the main issue being discussed today is the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba, the EU intends to make it clear once more that it stands shoulder to shoulder with its Ukrainian partner. It is up to Moscow to promptly explain the build‑up of troops at the border region with Ukraine and at the Kerch Strait. The key to greater cooperation lies with Russia. Ukraine has asked the OSCE to help resolve the conflict. Germany, too, sees the OSCE as a central player. At the same time, Germany is working with France in the Normandy format to ensure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Indo‑Pacific region: European strategy
The Foreign Affairs Council will today charge the European Commission with drafting a comprehensive Indo‑Pacific strategy for the EU. Heiko Maas firmly believes that Asia is one of the key economic and political regions of the 21st century. If Europe wants to retain its capability to act, it must intensify its relations. The aim is to work together with partners in the region in both the economic and political spheres in order to better promote European interests. The positive reception of the Federal Government’s policy guidelines for the Indo‑Pacific shows that a more prominent role here for Germany and Europe is welcomed both by Asian partners and the United States.
Myanmar: New sanctions
The situation in Myanmar remains dramatic and the military regime has been responsible for many new civilian victims. The Foreign Affairs Council therefore initiated new sanctions against the military regime today. Alongside the listing of individuals, sanctions are to be imposed on two business conglomerates with ties to the military. At the same time, offers to engage in dialogue remain on the table, for example at the ASEAN meeting on 24 April.
Ethiopia: Government must act
In view of the violent conflict in the Ethiopian Tigray region, Foreign Minister Maas and his colleagues agree: the protection of the civilian population and an end to violence are the top priority. The Ethiopian Government must act with urgency. In concrete terms, this means that the Eritrean troops must be withdrawn and the political dialogue must be stepped up. The announced independent inquiry into human rights violations in Tigray is a first step. More will have to follow.